Senior Punjab IAS officer and former Jalandhar divisional commissioner Sucha Ram Ladhar had to bite the bullet finally and deposit Rs 1.83 crore in the state government's arbitration account.
This after the Supreme Court refused to entertain his petition justifying his illegal charging of arbitration fee from the farmers of Jalandhar and Patiala while deciding their cases of land-acquisition compensation over more than five years. On December 3, Ladhar wrote to the Punjab government that he had deposited Rs 1.83 crore into the account from his own savings and by "raising loan from near relatives and friends".
The conduct of Ladhar (53), a 1991-batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, had come under scrutiny following a series of reports in Hindustan Times, starting with "IAS officer reaps a rich harvest" and "No policy, Ladhar makes hay as arbitrator" (May 24 to 25, 2012). In October 2012, a public-interest petition in the high court sought recovery of the entire amount he had charged illegally.
This October 11, the high court ordered Ladhar to deposit within a month Rs 1.58 crore along with interest. He was also to submit `20,000 a fine for his "conduct and unnecessary wastage of judicial time" on account of his "obdurate stand". Ladhar challenged the high court order in the Supreme Court.
Finding no merits in Ladhar's submissions, on November 12, the Supreme Court bench comprising justices HL Dattu and Ranjana Prakash Desai dismissed his petition and gave him another month to comply with the high court orders. Earlier, about his collecting the arbitration fee, the high court had remarked: "It has been a unique endeavour of Ladhar to aggrandise and enrich himself by this method."
The high court has given the state government a month to return the entire amount collected as arbitration fee to the farmers along with the proportionate interest recovered from Ladhar.